David Fizdale doubles down on Knicks’ free-agency confidence
SAN ANTONIO – That’s what friends are for.
Coach David Fizdale, reacting to owner James Dolan raising the stakes on the Knicks’ free-agent chances, said his NBA confidants have told him he’s done a “big time’’ job setting the Knicks up for a summer of grandeur.
In taking a dig at the media for its negativity regarding the Knicks’ league-worst 13-55 record, Fizdale said he’s getting better “feedback” from those he trusts more.
“The beauty of it — as much as I love you guys — I try to have my baseline on people that are having to make decisions around the league when they look at our team,’’ Fizdale said after the Knicks practiced at a San Antonio church facility. “All of the feedback that we’ve gotten is young kids have gotten better, our guys compete their butts off. We set ourselves up big time for a great future and that’s what I’m listening to when I talk to my friends around the league and the feedback that I’m getting.”
Dolan sounded more than confident, too, that good things are headed the Knicks’ way with cap space to sign two maximum free agents. Kevin Durant and West Orange, N.J.’s Kyrie Irving are the likeliest candidates and Dolan said he’s got “players’’ and “representatives’’ telling the organization they want to come to New York.
That has put immense pressure on Knicks president Steve Mills and GM Scott Perry to execute the coup. And Fizdale, too, since he’ll be involved in all the free-agent soirees, he said.
“Since we’ve been here I’m hoping that’s the case, that the relationships and what we’re building here will attract people,’’ Fizdale said. “But right now I’m so far away from that, guys, I’m like in a darkroom right now with these guys. Free agency for me is like millions of miles away.’’
Indeed, it doesn’t start for three and a half months but the Knicks have little to play for as they take a seven-game losing streak into a Spurs matchup on Friday.
Fizdale’s view of their culture seems to differ from that of departed Kristaps Porzingis, who returned to a full-time practice with the Mavericks on Tuesday and delivered a zinger aimed at New York. Dolan specified Porzingis wanted out of New York “the first chance he got,’, leading brass to ship him to Dallas and create more cap space.
“Now that I’m actually with a team 100 percent, I just can’t wait,” Porzingis pointedly told TNT this week. “There’s a culture (in Dallas), you can feel that. Guys like Dirk (Nowitzki), like JJ (Barea), they built that culture and they’re a really important part of this organization. Just seeing all those great personalities being in this organization, being part of this culture, just makes me want to be part of this.”
He hardly wanted to be part of Fizdale’s club and said at his press conference he had no intentions to play this season for the Knicks. It still looks like he won’t suit up for a game, though nothing could be ruled out with owner Mark Cuban.
“I don’t read into nobody’s comments,’’ Fizdale said of Porzingis’ subtle shot at the Knicks. “But I am happy he’s back on the court for his sake. I want him to get back healthy, strong and ready to play for his team. Everything doesn’t fit everybody. If he’s happy there, I’m really happy for him.”
Fizdale again stated he didn’t see any bad signs from the Latvian until the final couple of weeks. Fizdale and his wife, Natasha, wasted a summer trip to Latvia to coddle him and his agent/brother Janis Porzingis, who was the driving force in Porzingis’ wish to be elsewhere because of a losing culture and perhaps the coach’s distaste for European players.
“I didn’t feel that when he was here with us,’’ Fizdale said. “The stuff that ended up taking place was happening later on in the process. But overall his engagement, how he treated me, how he treated his teammates, he was fantastic and seemed totally invested in what we were doing. It just didn’t work out.”